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CHURCH CORNER: Truth is found in God's unconditional love
This week marks the 494th anniversary of one of the most radical deeds in all of Christian history. A faithful Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany…and started the Reformation, splitting the protesters, the Protestants, from the Roman Catholic Church.
Luther had discovered an amazing truth in his study of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Salvation did not come from good works or paying “indulgences” (pay the church enough money and get a certificate that lets good old Aunt Hilda out of purgatory, and the money, incidentally, goes to build the Pope a new church called St. Peter’s). Rather, Luther determined that salvation was by God’s gift of grace freely given.
Luther surmised from his study the truth is simply that there is nothing humans can do to earn forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, God’s grace freely given, through our faith in Jesus Christ.
I think we celebrate the Reformation today because the truth has indeed set us free. Free from lives captive to sin and “works righteousness.” Truth that is God’s unconditional grace and love freely given to you and me and all people. Truth that is a promise of forgiveness, not some distant time in the future, but right now…today, in this place, in this town, in this country and in this world.
Truth that sets us free from sin’s empty cup, free from slavery to our personal addictions, free from the injustice we do ourselves and to others.
Right about now, if you are like most Americans, your eyes are probably starting to glaze over. Yada, yada, yada, as the preacher/writer blares on as hellfire and brimstone are flung from the pages.
The trouble with talking out loud about sin in our world today is that many people are just plain bored and tired of hearing about sin. After all, isn’t sin just someone else’s old-fashioned morality?
But sin is more than the sum of someone else’s morality. Luther taught that sin was manifested in our human separation from God, our inability to be in relationship with God on our own. It is our natural human condition to rebel against God. To rebel against God’s inconvenient truth that messes up how we want to run our lives.
We become enslaved to sin as individuals and societies just as surely as if we were wearing chains. Chains formed by links of greed, materialism, injustice, addictions, anger, hatred and self-righteousness. And the sound of those chains dragging us down is often so loud we can’t hear the truth.
But what is truth? Well, truth is not found somewhere “out there.” Truth is not found in a new Lexus in our driveway. It’s not found in a prestigious ZIP code or address.
So where do we find truth? I think we find truth where we don’t have to pay for it. I think truth is found in God’s unconditional love for you and for all people. Truth is found in God’s amazing grace.
That was the good news of the Reformation 494 years ago. It is the good news of God’s gift of grace for you today.
Comments? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dan Wilson, Hope Lutheran Church